Over the past couple months I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to check out two cutting-edge tapeless workflows, both of which seemed at first glance to be difficult to work with in Avid. First was the Arri D-21 with an S.two digital magazine. Before I had a chance to look at it I was actually told that it would not work with Avid. I was pretty sure there’s always a way to make anything work, so I went in and looked at it firsthand.
S.two’s system records to a heavy-duty hard drive array that can then be plugged into a fancy dock that processes the video and allows you to ingest into your computer via HD-SDI in real time. Essentially it turns a tapeless workflow into a tape workflow. You get deck control and everything. The one advantage FCP has over Avid in this workflow is that the mag automatically generates a FCP XML file that allows easy batch digitizing. What you get with Avid is more work for the Assistant Editor because you have to enter the start and stop times and names and whatnot manually. Why they didn’t use the cross-platform ALE format, I don’t know, but it’s really not a big issue. It’s just like working with tapes.
With the RED workflow there’s absolutely nothing anywhere close to “realtime” processing. What you get with RED is a lot of waiting. It’s like processing 35mm film. It takes time. For some projects this isn’t really a big deal, for others it is. RED and FCP have been like two peas in a pod from the beginning, but Avid is getting things worked out nicely. The disadvantage Avid has at the moment is that it doesn’t read metadata from QuickTime files. If you were to import any QT file into Avid, its timecode would always start at 01:00:00:00. But the new REDRushes, which comes with REDAlert can create an ALE for easy batch importing.
The situation as I see it right now with all these crazy workflows being introduced, is that all you’re still doing as an offline editor is generating a list of numbers for the conform. In most cases, Avid and FCP are equally good at doing that. And if you feel more free and comfortable to create and actually edit in Avid, you should be working in Avid, no matter what anyone says about how well FCP handles newer tapeless workflows. Of course, that’s assuming you have someone in the production—such as myself—who actually understands what’s going on under the hood.